Update 20 April 2016: The European Commission has today published a 13-page "Full synopsis report of the public consultation on the needs for Internet speed and quality beyond 2020" and a 21-page "Full synopsis report of the public consultation on the evaluation and review of the regulatory framework for electronic communications". It added the following commentary on its website:

The views of both consumers and companies converge on the increasingly important role of high speed and high quality internet access as a precondition for a successful digital economy. User experience and expectations show that broadband connectivity encompasses issues of speed, coverage and quality. The results also demonstrate that the seamless provision of digital end-to-end services is increasingly important for many sectors.

Overall, the analysis confirms the preliminary trends, namely that the use of internet services and applications is expected to increase dramatically by 2025 and that policy measures are thought to be required to support the development of infrastructure in line with the respondents' perceived future needs. Regarding the need for Internet speed and quality, a number of further trends can be observed:

  • A majority of respondents think they will need Gigabit and low latency, fixed connectivity by 2025.
  • The dynamics and patterns of mobile connectivity use make the speed of data flow and quality of features increasingly important.
  • There is a high correlation between respondents who are dissatisfied and pessimistic about current and/or anticipated future network provision and those that reside in rural areas.
  • Organisations expect more from the future use of the Internet than do individuals.

The telecoms consultation sought views on topics such as the use of  EU rules to incentivise network rollout, efficient spectrum management, the role of universal service rules, the content and scope of regulation of communications services, and institutional & governance issues.

According to the detailed report released today, respondents felt that competition law principles and market power tests should continue to underpin the EU's regulation in this field. Ubiquitous connectivity relies on a competitive environment, giving sufficient space to competition to invest. The increasing role of wireless connectivity elicited views regarding predictable and coordinated spectrum management - which is seen by many as crucial in boosting digital network and services rollout, not least for facilitating and translating 5G into a success story. The telecoms consultation also notes that end-user specific regulation should take into account market and technological developments. The need for policy adjustment is widely recognised in order to improve connectivity and advance the internal market.

Building on today's results of the public consultations, the Commission will propose a revised EU telecoms framework in the course of the year.

Update 3 March 2016: The European Commission has published short summaries of the responses it received to the two public consultations, and the full text of responses to the consultation on the needs for Internet speed and quality beyond 2020. We reproduce the summary on the consultation on the regulatory framework for electronic communications below. A spreadsheet containing individual tick-box responses is also available here.

Preliminary trends observed in the replies

The Public Consultation covered a general evaluation of the current framework as well as more detailed evaluation and review of the specific elements of the framework, namely (i) network access regulation, (ii) spectrum management and wireless connectivity, (iii) sector-specific regulation for communications services (iv) universal service rules and (v) institutional set up and governance.

Without prejudice to the results of the analysis of the consultation, the following trends can be observed :

• Connectivity is broadly recognised as the underlying driving force for the digital society and economy, underpinned by technological changes and evolving consumer and market demands.

• Good connectivity is perceived as a necessary condition to achieve the Digital Single Market. Many respondents pointed to the need for policy measures and possible adjustments to current policy and regulatory tools to support the deployment of infrastructure in line with future needs.

• A number of inputs asserted that the current regulatory framework does not much advance the internal market. There is a general perception that the regulatory framework needs to be adjusted to the current market dynamics. Many respondents however acknowledged the achievements ushered in by the liberalisation of the telecom markets, in particular in terms of end-user benefits and competition within most national markets.

• On spectrum, the importance of wireless connectivity and wireless broadband are acknowledged. In general, industry is supportive of a more co-ordinated approach and seeks additional certainty for investments and possibilities to develop throughout the EU new wireless and mobile communications including 5G.

• Member States' authorities generally underline the achievements in the field of technical harmonisation, and the need for additional coordination to be bottom-up and voluntary; some of them call for a better balance between harmonisation and flexibility. There is general recognition of the importance of a more flexible access and use of spectrum in the future.

• The administrations of several Member States see the need for updating the telecoms rules, for reasons varying from the need to promote investment in next-generation infrastructures to the need to respond to technological and market changes. There are also calls for more flexibility in and simplification of those rules.

• Whereas traditional telecom companies consider that short-term economic gains have been preferred to long-term investment and innovation, alternative operators, BEREC, and consumer organisations consider that the framework has largely delivered on its current objectives.

• Telecom users are generally in favour of the current access regulation, while some consider that the emphasis should be put on service competition rather than on the underlying infrastructure, and that the sharing of infrastructure should be emphasised.

• The vast majority of respondents consider that the review should be the opportunity completely to reconsider the universal service regime. The administrations of the Member States see the need to maintain universal service, with flexibility at Member State level on funding and application to broadband. BEREC supports maintaining the current range of Universal Service Obligation instruments.

• While administrations of several Member States, the regulatory community and consumer organisations still see a need for a sector-specific end-user protection based on high-level minimum harmonisation, the telecom sector calls for more reliance on horizontal legislation and full harmonisation, especially for services. The telecom sector in general but also some administrations argue that same rules should apply to similar services while other administrations, so-called "Over-the-top" players, software and equipment vendors, cable operators and  some broadcasters are of the view that the concept of electronic communications services as currently defined has proven itself.

• While the continuing role of national regulatory authorities and spectrum management authorities is widely acknowledged, a large group of respondents highlights that the institutional set-up at EU level should be revised the better to ensure legal certainty and accountability.

The contributions received cannot be regarded as the official position of the Commission and its services and thus neither the responses nor this summary binds the Commission.

For a discussion, please contact Yves Blondeel.

Update 19 February 2016: Legislative proposals on the regulatory framework for electronic communications are now expected near the end of September 2016.

The European Commission has today published two consultations on the review of the EU regulatory framework for electronic communications.

1) Public consultation on the evaluation and the review of the regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services

2) Public consultation on the needs for Internet speed and quality beyond 2020

It also issued a news item, a Q&A, and a blog post by Commissioner Günther Oettinger.

The framework review consultation contains 218 questions; the speeds/quality consultation contains 35 questions.

Responses to both consultations are due by 7 December 2015.

Legislative proposals should be expected before or just after the 2016 Summer break.

For a discussion, please contact Yves Blondeel.